Psaki says WHO report on coronavirus origin 'lacks transparency'


White House press secretary Jen Psaki joined a growing sea of voices skeptical of a new report from the World Health Organization on the origins of Covid-19, saying the White House believes China has ‘not been transparent’ in releasing its findings. 

The report, released in collaboration with China, threw cold water on the idea that Sars-Cov-2 had escaped from a lab in Wuhan and called the theory of zoonotic transmission, or transfer of infection from animals to humans, “likely to very likely.” 

Psaki said that medical experts and the global community “all deserve greater transparency.” She said the report lacks crucial information and provides a “partial, incomplete picture” of the virus’ origin.

She called on China and the WHO to allow international experts “unfettered access” to data and to allow them to ask questions of people on the ground at the time of the outbreak. Psaki said that U.S. medical experts are still reviewing the report, but the White House believes it “doesn’t meet the moment.” 

Earlier this year, a WHO-led team of international and Chinese medical experts spent four weeks in Wuhan examining the origins of the virus but had little power to conduct an independent investigation during their trip. 

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The report calls the prospect that the virus transmitted from an animal reservoir to an animal host, followed by subsequent spread within that intermediate host that then transmits it to humans, “likely to very likely.” It calls the idea that the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology “extremely unlikely.”

The report called for further investigation in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.

Even WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the research team’s assessment on whether coronavirus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident was not “extensive enough.”

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Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, defended the investigation at a news briefing Monday. 

“When will the WHO experts be invited to the United States for a visit on origin-tracing?” Zhao asked. He also questioned when they would get access to a U.S. military laboratory where Chinese officials have suggested the virus might have originated.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, said he would like to see the report’s raw information first before deciding about its credibility.

“I’d also would like to inquire as to the extent in which the people who were on that group had access directly to the data that they would need to make a determination,” he said. 

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